Government welfare schemes can help India achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of reducing poverty, improving access to drinking water, sanitation and housing by 2030, said the Economic Survey 2021 released on January 29.
Seventeen SDGs, including elimination of poverty and hunger, universal access to drinkable water, sanitation, and healthcare, among others, were adopted by the United Nations in September 2015. The member nations were directed to attempt achieving them by 2030.
While India has succeeded in addressing the “bare necessities” or basic needs of a large section of the population over the past several years, a gap exists between urban and rural, and among different income groups, the survey noted.
This gap, according to the survey, could be addressed through the welfare schemes such as Jal Jeevan Mission, which focuses on supply of potable drinking water; Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) – the campaign to improve sanitation facilities and build toilets; and Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY) – the affordable housing programme for the poor.
“Government schemes, such as the Jal Jeevan Mission, SBM-G, PMAY-G, may design appropriate strategy to address these gaps to enable India achieve the SDG goals of reducing poverty, improving access to drinking water, sanitation and housing by 2030,” the document read.
The survey also called for increased cohesion between the central and state governments to achieve the targeted goals through effective implementation of the welfare programmes.
“There should be effective targeting of the needier population be they in urban or rural areas or across states. As civic amenities in urban areas are also provided by the local self-governments, there must be effective convergence in scheme implementation at the Centre-State and local levels,” it said.
The Economic Survey uses the Bare Necessities Index (BNI) to compare the progress made by states in providing access to basic needs. The index primarily focuses on access to water, sanitation, housing, micro-environment, and other facilities.
“Compared to 2012, access to ‘the bare necessities’ has improved across all states in the country in 2018. Access to bare necessities is the highest in the states such as Kerala, Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat, while it is the lowest in Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Tripura,” the survey said.
These bare necessities cover “goal 6 of SDG”, which focuses on access to clean water and sanitation to all and “goal 7 inter alia aims to provide universal access to electricity and clean cooking fuel”, it further added.
On Universal Healthcare Coverage, which is also one of the SDGs adopted by the UN, the Economic Survey noted that “India must take steps to improve healthcare accessibility and affordability in the country”.
The measures, however, are required to be long term. Lessons should be learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, “which showed that countries with much higher healthcare investments and concomitant health infrastructure have struggled to contain the pandemic”, the survey added.